Health bodies refuse to sign government deal on alcohol

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  • Monday 14 March 2011

Six key UK health associations have rejected the government’s new ‘responsibility deal’ on alcohol – ahead of its publication tomorrow.

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BMA: 'no option but to walk away from the table''

The British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and other medical groups have announced that they will not sign up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal.

This is a partnership between the Department of Health, UK industry and the health community covering food, alcohol, physical activity and health at work.

The six organisations give a series of reasons why – as a group – they are unable to sign up to the deal's alcohol policy.

They believe the Responsibility Deal policy objective to foster a culture of responsible drinking does not adequately address the problems of morbidity and mortality caused by alcohol.

They also say drinks industry pledges are not reliable, and the Responsibility Deal process has not taken the health lobby’s alternative pledges into account.

These pledges include not to advertise in cinemas during under-18 films, and to put health warnings on all bottles.

While the organisations stress they ‘remain completely open to dialogue with the government’, they also say they ‘have not yet seen evidence that Government is working towards a comprehensive, cross-departmental strategy to reduce alcohol harm, based on evidence of what works, with rigorous evaluation metrics.’

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association says it will not comment before the publication of the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal tomorrow.

The six organisations involved in today’s announcement are: Alcohol Concern, British Association for the Study of the Liver, British Liver Trust, British Medical Association, Institute of Alcohol Studies, and the Royal College of Physicians.

BMA spokeswoman Dr Vivienne Nathanson said, “The BMA has thought long and hard about walking away from the table but ultimately we do not feel we have any option. The government has talked the talk in respect of wanting to tackle alcohol misuse but when it comes to taking tough action that will achieve results it falls short. Instead it has chosen to rely on the alcohol industry to develop policies - given the inherent conflict of interest these will do nothing to reduce the harm caused by alcohol misuse.'

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